Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chile Con Carnage: Footballing Thoughts on England and the USMNT

            Photo by gkdavie on Flickr

Ed is not optimistic about Brazil:

Watching England battle Chile was sad at first.  They just don't seem to have the players.  Big guys with strong arms against small guys with quickness and footwork.  Not a fair fight.  Chile's players just seemed better at the sport, and ended up dominating in a 2 to 0 win that the English tabloids described as "Chile Con Carnage."  Even Wayne Rooney, who looked the most dangerous of England's players, seemed a distant second to Alexis Sanchez.  Sanchez had everything and reminded of a smaller but no less dangerous Sergio Aguero.  I've never seen much of Sanchez on Barcelona -- it always seems that Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta outshine him.  But perhaps it's more a question of there being only one ball, because even against Brazil last night he seemed the most dangerous and effective player on the pitch.

So is England really that bad?  No, but they're not that good, either. Ultimately, England doesn't have too many players that can just beat you with the ball in the final third.  While there are poachers and strikers that can beat you without -- Robert Lewandowski and Robin Van Persie come to mind -- those that can just run at players make an enormous difference.  See, for example, Luis Suarez, Aguero, and of course Messi.  England's best at this is the newcomer Andros Townsend.  And perhaps there's Theo Walcott, whose speed makes up for his lack of skill and allows him to get past defenders.

What about the USA?  Well, more of the same problem.  Sadly, I still think we are more or less a dumbed down version of England.  This isn't so bad and is much better than it used to be.  But in the game against Scotland the team really struggled with creativity in passing, and until Breck Shea and his ridiculous haircut came onto the field no one seemed dangerous or able to beat anyone.  A great coaching instructor commented that he believed that every country had a style of play, and for the USA it had to do with our conditioning.  Even at the very end of a long game against Angola game four years ago Landon Donovan was able to make a 70 yard run at full sprint and finish a goal.  But I'm not so sure of that.  I think we're still finding our style.  And I expect the US style to be something that contains a little bit of every other element, except our players are going to be bigger and faster than yours.

Wait, did you catch that bit about great coaching instructors?  I hope so, because I finally took the time to pick up my first coaching license, courtesy of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.  And yes, the instructors were outstanding.  Their ability to teach and to instruct how to teach was humbling.  They were all Americans, and it was clear that we were getting the very smallest bit of their knowledge in the two days of training.  It was interesting that while they were sculpting their students, their styles and methods also seemed to be entirely open to style, as if they wanted us to find our own.  They knew the history of the game in America and abroad.  They were out of shape, had old school ACL scars, were unmarried, and generally completely devoted and focused solely on what they did.  Perhaps most importantly,  many of this group of 'A' licensed coaches all focus on youth training, ages 9 to 12.  Little kids learning to play.  Which means I've never felt better about the future of USA soccer.

This is farlieonfootie for November 20. 

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